Monday, August 4, 2014

Three Bean Salad, Family Reunions, and a Book Release!

It's August!

That means my new book, A Mother for His Children, is now available at all of your local outlets!

BTW - if your Walmart is like mine, the Love Inspired Historicals won't appear on the shelves until the middle of the month. You can either be patient, or go online to or Amazon, or your favorite online retailer.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Ruthy also has a book out this month! His Montana Sweetheart is available everywhere :) or you can go online again:

Why do we enjoy Love Inspired romances so much?

I think a big part of it is because we love stories about home, family, traditions - new and old, new beginnings, second chances, and God's grace.

A Mother for His Children was inspired by a story in my own family.

This family:

This is my great-grandmother, Bessie Schrock (on the far left), with her family.

Notice G-G-Grandpa Eli's plain clothes. His parents
were the first generation to leave the Amish, but they
didn't leave the plain clothes behind.

And this is my great-grandfather, George Sherck (on the far left) with his family.

The Shercks weren't quite as "Plain" as the Schrocks,
but G-G-Grandpa Isaac never wore a tie.

Eventually George and Bessie met. He courted and she accepted.

Even though he did complain that the whitewash on the tree trunks in the front yard of the Schrock home made his good suit dusty. :)

They had children - my grandmother Ethel and her sisters, Myrtle, Dorothy, Eunice and Ruby.

And in 1928, Ethel married my grandfather, Guy, and they had children. My Dad and his brother and sisters - John, Martha, James, Waneta and Nancy. 

But they never let the bonds of the past loosen too far - family is too important.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Sherck family has been meeting every year for a family get-together. (Can you really call it a "reunion" for a family as close-knit as this one?)

Sherck family, 1938

Not just Grandma, Grandpa, children and grandchildren. As many generations as possible shows up for this reunion.

And not only that, but there's also a Sherck-Weaver reunion every year. The descendants of my great-great-great-grandparents.

When I was growing up, I thought this was normal. I thought every family had close ties like this. Then my world expanded, and I started wondering what made my family unique.

I've decided that a lot of it comes from our family heritage and Amish/Mennonite background. Both of my great-grandparents descended from Anabaptists that were persecuted in Switzerland in the 1600's. The two families came from small towns in the Emmental region of Switzerland only a few miles apart.

The years of persecution, being imprisoned for their faith, ultimately exiled from their homes and taking the long and dangerous journey to a new land cemented bonds in Amish and Mennonite families that are unshakable.

The Sherck reunion is this coming weekend. I won't be there to enjoy renewing family ties - but I'll certainly be thinking about them.

And the food.

You knew I'd bring this around to food, didn't you?

Yes, I'm going to share a recipe, but you have to know it was hard to choose. The only dish I remember from my childhood was the homemade ice cream for dessert. Lots and lots of ice cream, made in hand-cranked ice cream freezers.

And someone usually brought cracklin's - but they were too rich for little girls (just like Laura was told in The Little House in the Big Woods).

I do remember the tables being so full of good food you could never try everything. There's one dish that sticks in my memory, though: Three Bean Salad. You can never go wrong with a good Three Bean Salad!

This is a repeat recipe, but it's perfect for this time of year:

Jan's Three Bean Salad


1 can green beans, drained

1 can yellow (or wax) beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

1/2 small onion, sliced thin and separated into rings

1/4 cup green pepper, cut in 1/2" chunks

1 cup Italian salad dressing (the easy option)

Or for a more authentic Amish flavor, make this dressing:
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbsp. oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 90 minutes. Drain the excess salad dressing before serving.

Do you enjoy family reunions?


  1. WOW! Fabulous post! I love old photos. Now I'm inspired to go look through mine. We have such a skinny family tree. A few kids to each family, some not reaching adulthood, leaving the tree spindlier and spindlier. And so I married into my husband's family. Both his great grandparents were one of 13, his grandparents were families of 10-12, his parents had 11 and 14 siblings, my husband is one of 11. He has hundreds of cousins and second cousins and nieces and nephews. A wedding in his family is a whole week affair, with people traveling from thousands of miles, relatives greeting each other for the first time in years. Lots of tears, hugs, pictures. His photo album is much bigger than mine, even though each family (until this generation) only got one or two pictures a decade.
    This post is so fun... Now I want to do one, too. I'll post pics of my mother's and father's side, and then of my husband's family. The comparison will be shocking. :)

    1. The family tree on my mom's side is a bit skinny, too. But that doesn't make them any less interesting!

      Isn't it great to marry into a big family, though? My husband's family is like that. Hundreds of people, and a lot of them live in the same county in central Michigan..... I love visiting with them when we make our semi-annual trip back!

  2. I love old pictures and family history as well. How did you get pictures so you could post? Did you take a picture of the old photo?

    Alas, no family reunions ever for me. All ties with my relatives were severed when we moved from Canada to Ireland. There's bad history in both sides of my family and I haven't figured out what other than the fact my dad was protestant and my mum was Catholic. I made numerous attempts to connect with relatives over in Ireland in my teens and early twenties but didn't get far. I even lived over there for almost two years and was almost shunned by the numerous aunts and uncles and cousins on my mum's side. (she was the youngest of eleven.) No one is left on my dad's side but very, very distant cousins. I did manage to do some family history work while I was there at the customs house but other than that the personalities in my family tree are a mystery. so sad.

    The bean salad -- hello nutmeg?! That's a surprise. I'll have to try that!

    1. I have copies of the old photos that my dad made the old fashioned way about 10 years ago - he took a picture of the original. To get these, I scanned those copies, and then used my favorite program on them (Picmonkey) to clean them up. That made them a little sharper.

      And I can understand the impossibility of having a family reunion! Protestant/Catholic mixed marriages are difficult enough here, but in Ireland? But we're glad your mum and dad got together!

      Yes. Nutmeg. How can I describe it? It adds an almost savory edge to the sweet and sour dressing. So delicious!

  3. Who cares about the food, I'm dining on those beautiful family pictures and the thoughts of the Schrocks and the Sherck families and how blessed we are to have them in America!!!! Yay, immigration! Jan, honestly, this is so beautiful! Love it!!! And thank you for the shout out for His Montana Sweetheart, I love that we have books out together! And your book is on my Kindle, but now I have to WRESTLE BETH..... sigh...

    1. His Montana Sweetheart is on my bedside table! Next up after I finish Helen Gray's Ozark Reunion. :)

      And isn't immigration a marvelous thing? A new start. The past forgiven. The future an open book. I'd love to write a series about my immigrant ancestors, but I have to finish the one I'm working on, first!

  4. Jan, contrats on the release!! And thanks for sharing those really cool photos. I LOVE old family photos. We have a wall full in our family room. The oldest that has a date on it is from 1900. We also have one of hubby's great, great grandparents.

    Now I'm going to pin that gorgeous bean salad photo! I love bean salad. My MIL has a fantastic recipe similar to this.

    1. Actually, we just realized the 1900 photo has my husband's great, great, great grandparents in it.

    2. We're filling a wall with family pictures, too! We inherited a lot of snapshots from my husband's family, so we used photo corners to mount them to black scrapbook pages, and then framed the pages. They turned out great! I'll have to share how we did that in a future post, because it's time to add my side of the family to the wall!

      Isn't it great to have the old pictures up where we can see them? I like to give my children a sense of the lives behind them so they can look forward to the lives that will follow them....

  5. Congratulations on your release. Those are some family photos! I love three bean salad and interestingly enough, have never tried to make it.

    1. Thanks, Tina!

      I love the family photos, and those are just a few of many my dad collected for us. I'll always be grateful that he did that.

      And you'll have to try making the salad. "Easy" makes it seem too complex! Just open cans. How much easier can it get?

  6. Hi Jan,
    I absolutely loved seeing the old family photos and reading about your genealogy. We're big on that in my family too. When my mom went on ahead to heaven, the first thing I got from her house was her case with her family history in it, it meant more to me than anything else. When I think about how one generation influences the next and how the prayers of our ancestors have gone before us, I see the hand of God in action. My great granddad was a believer and an herbalist. I think there's a story in that just like you found one in your family tree.

    Btw: I live in Va., we have big walmarts and both your and Ruthys books were available this past week!

    1. Hi Tracey!

      I'm so glad you were able to get your mom's collection of family history! Genealogy is addicting, isn't it? But I've found so many stories as I've sifted through immigration records, copies of wills, census records.... I have enough ideas for a lifetime of books :)

      And when I think of how each family's faith has influenced the next I don't think we will ever know (this side of heaven) how tenuous that scarlet thread is sometimes.

      And I'm so glad to hear my book is on shelves somewhere! We live at the end of the distribution trail, so it's hard to know what's going on in other parts of the country!

  7. Sorry, Jan. You lost me at the kidney beans. Bleck! Only thing worse is lima beans. Double bleck!

    I miss my family reunions in Michigan, too. What is it about reunions and food? I mean the best food. Of course, if you've got one aunt trying to out do another and so on an so forth.

    Speaking of aunts, I was enjoying the list of your grandmother's siblings. My grandmother was Marian while her siblings were Hazel, Mabel and Gladys. Oh, and Bob, but we hear that name these days, so he doesn't count. I suppose the Mabels and Gladyses are like our Tiffanys and Caitlyns.

    1. Oh, I'm with you on the lima beans! Kidney beans, too - although they aren't as bad. It's a texture thing, isn't it?

      I usually substitute small red beans for kidney beans - smaller, with a texture more like a pinto bean. I use them in this salad and in chili.

      Isn't it fun to see what names were in use in different times and different places? I love the name Mary Connealy found for the aunt in "Stuck Together": Iphegenia. I'm not even sure if I spelled it right!